With the transfer window still open, English Premier League (EPL) clubs continue to access the benefits and risks attached to a potential signing.
You’ve seen plenty of lists regarding the worse signings ever, but not many on the most stupid signings ever.
Liverpool signing Robbie Keane from Tottenham Hotspur for £20 million in 2008 ended up being bad, but it wasn’t stupid as he had scored 23 goals the season before.
So let’s review 20 of the most stupid signings made by clubs since the creation of the EPL.
Chelsea to Wigan Athletic for £2 million in 2010
Scouting talented teenagers can always be hit and miss, so no blame is attached to the Chelsea scout who recommended Chelsea to sign the 18-year-old Franco Di Santo.
Surely after one goal in 41 games for Chelsea and Blackburn Rovers, Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martínez came to the conclusion that Di Santo cannot score.
But for some inexplicable reason he still signed Di Santo, and even paid a £2 million transfer fee.
Anyone want to guess how Di Santo went?
One goal in 29 games.
Lyon to Fulham for £11.5 million in 2001
La Liga champions at the time, Valencia’s most expensive signing during the summer was Salva from Atlético Madrid for €10.8 million.
Newly promoted Fulham, financed by eccentric owner Mohamed Al-Fayed, signed Steve Marlet from Lyon for £11.5 million.
The only successful thing Marlet did was con Al-Fayed into giving him an absurdly inflated contract—Southampton’s Marian Pahars cost £10.7 million less, and scored eight more goals that season.
Al-Fayed was so incensed about Marlet’s failures that he took then-manager Jean Tigana to court for allegedly overpaying players and signing players in “secret”—unsurprisingly, the High Court ruled in favour of Tigana.
Roma to Liverpool for £20 million in 2009
The idea of signing someone as gifted as Alberto Aquilani is right, but the transfer isn’t.
Not only is it wrong, it was stupid.
Aquilani hadn’t played for six months and was coming off his worst season for Roma. Then, consider his inability to play out a full season—hasn’t done so since playing for Triestina in Serie B.
So why on earth was he signed for £20 million?
Aquilani was signed as Xabi Alonso’s replacement, yet he lacks the physical presence and the mental fortitude of Alonso.
It’s more than likely that Aquilani will be permanently shipped back to Italy after this coming season.
Barcelona to Chelsea for free in 2000
Sure Winston Bogarde was signed for free, but he cost Chelsea over £8 million worth of wages over four seasons where he played just four games.
No, he wasn’t injured.
Chelsea made it clear to him that they didn’t want him, having just signed him, and Bogarde refused to leave the club.
No club would take Bogarde because of his hefty wages, £40,000 per week, and there was no point loaning him out, given Chelsea would have to pay the majority of his wages, and his development as a footballer was irrelevant.
So for four seasons, Bogarde trained, watched and happily took his pay slip.
Vitória de Guimarães to Manchester United for £7.4 million in 2010
Almost a day after accusing Manchester City of “kamikaze spending," manager Sir Alex Ferguson spent £7.4 million on a player he hadn’t heard of and hadn’t watched.
Here’s the catch, Manchester United could have signed Bébé for free, or at worse, for just £125 000 when he was playing for Portuguese second division team Estrela da Amadora.
Instead, Portuguese first division team Vitória de Guimarães signed Bébé for free, and then promptly sold him for £7.4 million to Manchester United after Bébé impressed in a few preseason games.
What’s Bébé doing now? Playing for Beşiktaş on loan.
He’s unlikely to break into the first team with the talented triumvirate of Simão, Ricardo Quaresma and Hugo Almeida ahead of him.
Lens to Liverpool for £10 million in 2002
El Hadji Diouf had an unforgettable 2002 FIFA World Cup, so much so that Pelé foolishly put him in his FIFA 100 list over Lakhdar Belloumi, Rabah Madjer, François Omam-Biyik, Hossam Hassan, Tony Yeboah and so on.
What made this transfer so stupid was Liverpool passed up on re-signing Nicolas Anelka, who was then signed by Manchester City for £13 million.
What Diouf contributed was lack of goals, lack of quality and lack of class.
Anelka scored 46 goals in 103 games, whereas Diouf scored six goals in 79 games.
Torino to Nottingham Forest for £1.8 million in 1995
Andrea Silenzi was the first Italian footballer ever to play in the EPL, and he was also the first Italian flop in the EPL.
You just wonder what then-manager Frank Clark was thinking in paying £1.8 million on a striker who had finished the season with four goals in 26 games.
Silenzi scored two goals in 20 games, and forced his transfer by refusing to return to Nottingham Forest having been on loan in Italy.
Rangers to Newcastle United for £8 million in 2005
Jean-Alain Boumsong looks like a world-class centre-back, too bad he doesn’t play like one.
Some of Newcastle’s signings during this time like Albert Luque and Michael Owen also failed spectacularly.
Boumsong’s signing was stupid because why didn’t Newcastle sign him for free a few months earlier?
Instead, they waited a few months after he was signed by Rangers, then bought him for £8 million, only to watch Boumsong draw level with Titus Bramble as Newcastle’s most error-ridden and incompetent defender in recent memory.
Ternana to Blackburn Rovers for £6.75 million in 2001
I guess Blackburn Rovers didn’t learn from the tale of Andrea Silenzi, because Corrado Grabbi was destined for failure.
He wasn’t proven quality, sure he scored goals, but that was in Serie B.
Also, he didn’t like the English culture, didn’t have a good attitude, moaned and unsurprisingly was disliked by the team.
Grabbi ended up costing Blackburn Rovers about £3.4 million per goal. Several years later, compatriot Bernardo Corradi also failed in England.
Auxerre to Newcastle United for £3.5 million in 1998
What possessed then-manager Kenny Dalglish to buy Stephane Guivarc’h?
Perhaps, Daglish was swayed by Guivarc’h's goal scoring feats for Auxerre.
Though, did Daglish not watch Guivarc’h during France’s 1998 FIFA World Cup triumph?
Guivarc’h was the forward who couldn’t score if his life depended on it.
Dinamo Zagreb to Aston Villa for £6 million in 2001
The signing of Boško Balaban is fine as he was one of premier talents in Europe at the time.
Though the treatment of Balaban was stupid, because why wasn’t he given a chance?
Clearly it was politics because 11 games in two-and-a-half years, nine as a substitute, after paying £6 million is ludicrous.
Since moving on, Balaban has had a respectable career.
Juventus to Crystal Palace for £1.7 million in 1997
Chairman Mark Goldberg has to rank as one of the worst decision-makers in recent EPL memory.
Where was the logic in paying £1.7 million of Crystal Palace’s limited money on a Juventus reject, who had just suffered a serious knee injury?
Also, did Goldberg not take note of Nottingham Forest’s daring signing of Andrea Silenzi?
Goldberg also signed Valérien Ismaël for a record (still a record) fee of £2.75 million, who also failed.
Then there was allowing Leeds United flop and perhaps one of the worse signings in EPL history, Tomas Brolin into the team.
Crystal Palace were relegated that season.
You shouldn’t be surprised that several years later, Goldberg filed for bankruptcy.
Blackburn Rovers to Chelsea for £10 million in 1999
Chris Sutton had two 20 goals or more seasons for Blackburn Rovers, but how many goals did he score in the season Chelsea decided to spend £10 million?
Four goals in 20 games.
Sutton failed to stand out at Stamford Bridge, and after an excruciating three goals in 39 games, he was sold to Celtic, where he recovered his scoring form.
Southampton to Blackburn Rovers £7.5 million in 1997
A price of £7.5 million for a 21-year-old and he was more expensive than Manchester United’s Andrew Cole—talk about putting unnecessary pressure on Kevin Davies, who wasn’t anything special.
Two goals in 27 games plus Southampton being relegated was a reality check for Davies.
The transfer was stupid because other clubs found success with cheaper signings: Leeds United signed Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink for £2 million (18 goals); Arsenal signed Nicolas Anelka for £500,000 (17 goals); and Aston Villa signed Julian Joachim for £1.5 million (14 goals).
Manchester United to Chelsea for £15 million in 2003
Manchester United signing Juan Sebastián Verón made sense, given he was so talented, so strong, so classy and you’d think he’d give Manchester United another dimension.
He failed, oh well—but how stupid were Chelsea in buying Verón for £15 million, and then loaning him to Inter Milan. What sense did that make?
I think technically he’s up there with the very best, but he lacks the heart, the drive and the determination of someone like Raúl.
Look at Raúl, who won practically everything in Europe, and he’s testing himself in the Bundesliga with Schalke.
Look at Verón, who won basically nothing in Europe, but he’s playing it safe back in Argentina.
Diego Maradona selecting Verón in his FIFA World Cup starting 11 has to be one of the most blatant acts of favouritism ever.
Udinese to Everton for £5 million in 2005
Per Krøldrup was manager David Moyes’ second-most expensive signing at the time.
Krøldrup suffered a groin injury, played one game and was then sold to Fiorentina.
There’s an urban myth that Moyes had mistaken Krøldrup for another Udinese centre-back.
Yet Krøldrup’s centre-back partner at the time was Felipe, who is shorter, Brazilian and looks nothing like Krøldrup.
Rangers to Sunderland for £6.75 million in 2002
At the time, Tore André Flo was Sunderland’s record signing, but his signing had no ounce of logic attached to it.
He had only played four games the previous season, was past his best and on his way out of the Norway national team, yet Sunderland still signed him.
Four goals in 29 EPL games, and guess where Sunderland finished? Rock bottom.
Flo elongated his professional football career for another seven seasons.
He retired, and then this year made a comeback at 37 years of age for boyhood club Sogndal.
A.C. Milan to Chelsea for £30.8 million in 2006
Selling a deteriorating Andriy Shevchenko for an inflated £30.8 million must have been Silvio Berlusconi’s only joy that year, as his tenure as Italian Prime Minister ended.
Then-manager José Mourinho’s isolation of Shevchenko was his way of getting back at owner Roman Abramovich.
It got to a point where you started feeling sorry for Shevchenko; even when he scored that pearl of a goal against Tottenham Hotspur, Mourinho was still seen barking instructions as opposed to celebrating.
There’s no doubt that Shevchenko had class in him, but he was past his best, he was burdened with the expectations of Abramovich, and he faced a daily struggle with Mourinho.
Mourinho made sure that Shevchenko failed.
Liverpool to Chelsea for £50 million in 2011
I’ll list the points as opposed to ranting.
1. Had a Stephane Guivarc’h-esq impact for Spain during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Was worse than Guivarc’h as he started more games than he did.
2. Was having his worse season at Liverpool.
3. Didn’t look like the Fernando Torres of old.
Maybe owner Roman Abramovich only watches archived EPL footage, because this is the biggest waste of money since Manchester City signed Steve Daley from Wolverhampton Wanderers for a then-British transfer fee record of £1.43 million in 1979.
Blyth Spartans to Southampton for free in 1996
In then-manager Graeme Souness’s defence, he thought Ali Dia was playing for Paris Saint-Germain as opposed to Blyth Spartans.
I think this story has to be not only the most recanted EPL story, but the funniest.
Did Souness not bother to do a quick background check on Dia?
Dia is related to George Weah, so he must be quality!
I don’t think I can come up with a manager worse than Souness. I honestly think he is the worst football manager ever.
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